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The influence female leaders have on aspiring lawyers

Working within strong, female-led teams and being surrounded by each of their firm’s supportive cultures has encouraged two aspiring lawyers that there is a place for them in senior positions, they told Protégé ahead of International Women’s Day.

user iconNaomi Neilson 07 March 2022 Big Law
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Referring to the equal representation of men and women in the Coulter Legal leadership team, Women in Law finalist and graduate Alli Taylor told The Protégé Podcast that it is a “stand-out achievement in the legal industry” and an “amazing” experience to work and learn alongside so many senior, female lawyers.

Within her team, Ms Taylor said she has the opportunity to work with the managing principal Anne O’Loughlin and head of family and relationship law Bonnie Phillips, who have both “really inspired me and gave me a sense of motivation”.

“The fact that I get to learn from them both and have them as my mentors has really benefited me and made me aspire to want to achieve as much as I can. They are both very hardworking and driven women,” Ms Taylor commented.


Ms Taylor, who also works alongside principal lawyer in the family law team Bridgette Kelly, said she has “loved” the experience of working with them.

“They definitely show me what I can achieve in the legal industry. I very much look up to these women, and it does give me that drive to want to succeed and work towards becoming an amazing lawyer, as they all are today,” Ms Taylor said.

At DLA Piper, graduate lawyer Sarah McKenzie told The Protégé Podcast that the firm had created an “amazing” culture and a supportive environment where women are promoted into leadership positions and young female lawyers are never left doubting that they can also move up into senior roles one day.

“When you think of the traditional lawyer that you’re looking up to, it’s Harvey Specter [from Suits] and it’s the stereotypical lawyer. But all the role models in my real estate team – from the senior associates I work with in Sydney, the partners in Sydney and the senior associate in Brisbane, and a partner in Melbourne – they’re all women,” Ms McKenzie said.

Ms McKenzie said that having this female-strong team created this environment where she knows she can achieve the same “because I am seeing them do it”.

“That’s not a daydream. That’s not a wild expectation. Women can be partners [and] senior associates and be exceptionally good at what they do in this area because they are all doing it around me,” Ms McKenzie told the podcast.

Referring specifically to Amber Matthews, DLA Piper Australia’s managing partner, Ms McKenzie added that seeing her in such a high leadership role within the firm meant that “it’s never been a question for me on whether a woman could do that”.

As part of the culture, Ms McKenzie praised the firm for never “making an issue” out of the gender of new hires: “When we bring a new partner across, it’s not that they’re male or a female partner – it’s just that we have a talented new partner. It’s never been made an issue of and it’s never been a question of if I could do that too – which is incredible.”